Rays smitten by Bradley's 'honesty'

LAS VEGAS – Milton Bradley was among players in town for Eddie Guardado's charity poker tournament and the Manny Pacquiao-Oscar De La Hoya fight. Because he's a free agent, Bradley naturally found his way to the Bellagio hotel and the winter meetings Monday.

And from there, he found his way into a lunch meeting with Tampa Bay Rays general manager Andrew Friedman and manager Joe Maddon. The budget-conscious American League champions aren't expected to be especially active on the free-agent market, but they do need a designated hitter/outfielder type, and the switch-hitting Bradley certainly qualifies.

Maddon came away impressed by Bradley, who has a history of erratic behavior but is coming off a career year with the Texas Rangers. He batted .321 with 22 home runs and 77 RBIs, and made the All-Star team.

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"He was very honest, open and intense. I liked all three," Maddon said. "The thing about him that always stands out is that this guy to me works an at-bat as well as anybody in either league. I've never seen him throw an at-bat away. Never. I don't care what the score is, inning is, whatever, he's the same quality at-bat every time up."

Bradley, who made $5.25 million last season, has had problems with both knees during his career, and injury concerns could limit his offers. That's where the Rays would come in, hoping to land a bargain.

"People grow up, people change and a lot of that, from what I can gather, this guy is all about winning," Maddon said. "He came back rather quickly from his injury, and that probably prohibited him from playing the outfield as often as he would have liked. I think once he is well, once the knee's healed up, I think he's going to be fine."

The Rays plan to meet with other designated hitter/outfield candidates this week before making an offer, Maddon said.